Oil Spill Clean-Up Linked to Adverse Respiratory Effects

Respiratory issues, chromosomal damage found in workers who helped with clean-up of Prestige spill

TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals participating in the clean-up of a major oil spill may be at higher risk of persistent respiratory symptoms, elevated markers of airway injury, and chromosomal damage, according to a study published online Aug. 23 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In a cross-sectional study, Gema Rodriguez-Trigo, M.D., of Hospital Clinico San Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and colleagues evaluated local fishermen highly exposed and non-exposed to oil two years after the Prestige oil spill (which contaminated the coast of northwestern Spain) to assess respiratory effects and chromosomal damage.

The investigators found that fisherman exposed to oil were at an increased risk of having lower respiratory tract symptoms compared to non-exposed fisherman (risk difference, 8.0). Nonsmoking exposed fisherman had higher exhaled 8-isoprostane levels than nonsmoking non-exposed individuals (geometric mean ratio, 2.5), with higher levels of exhaled vascular endothelial growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor. In addition, exposed nonsmoking fisherman with lower respiratory tract symptoms had higher exhaled 8-isoprostane levels than nonsmoking exposed individuals without symptoms. A larger proportion of exposed fisherman had structural chromosomal alterations (risk difference, 27.4), which were predominantly unbalanced alterations.

"The analysis reported in this issue of health effects in fisherman who helped clean-up the Prestige oil spill provides an opportunity to consider practices that will facilitate study of health effects among the 50,000 workers and others exposed during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and future incidents," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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